Friday, 20 September 2013

Frequently Asked Questions on the UNISON 2013 Pay ballot

I've been to three meetings this week on the pay ballot and few ideas and debates came up so I thought I'd type them up here in the form of a FAQ:

Q: Will the ballot only be sent to my home address?
A: Yes - so you need to update your details now - check that UNISON have your correct address by calling 0845 355 0845

Q: So I can't just vote on-line?
A: No, the Tory anti-union laws forbid making it easy to ballot members and the current government want to make it even harder...

Q: The UCU are balloting too - that's good news, but shouldn't you update your film so you can circulate it to them too?
A: What a good idea! An updated version of the film including the UCU info is now live:

Q: That film is great to show at a meeting but it's a little bit long for emailing round - is there a a shorter version of the film we can use to send round to our members in an email?
A: Yes, we thought that would be helpful too, so here it is:

Q: Can you publish a list of lay-rep speakers to invite to meetings?
A: Here is an incomplete list of UNISON HESGE reps who have indicated to me they are happy for me to share their email details so you can invite them to speak about the pay ballot in addition to full time officials:

Sandy Nicholl:
Molly Cooper:

North West:
Linda Holden:
Andy Beech:

West Mids:
Matt Raine:

South East:
Sarah Pickett:

Yorkshire and Humber:
Kath Owen:

Tomasa Bullen
Max Watson

I'm more than happy to speak at any meeting about this if I can get travel expenses paid and I can arrange the time off. You can also call my UNISON Blackberry if you want to talk about the pay campaign: 07949 039 187

Q: Will all members, including outsourced staff, be balloted?
A: No, only those employed directly by your institutions will be balloted. We did talk to some outsourced workers in the film about the positive difference the Living Wage makes to their lives, but they won't be balloted as they aren't covered by collective bargaining (which is another reason why we need to get them all back in house);

Q: I'll lose a days pay if I go on strike, is that really a price worth paying?
A: Yes: whilst you will lose pay when you go on strike on the other hand you will likely lose more if we don't fight the pay freeze, as the employer will just keep coming back for more...

Q: Is it right that UCU are balloting for Action Short of a Strike as well as strike action, but UNISON aren't. Why not?
A: UNISON HE SGE believe, for a number of reasons, that focusing on strike action is the best option to break the pay freeze, so we are only asking the one question in our ballot. UCU members decided to ask both because many believe they can take effective, sustainable action such as refusing to do marking... but we in UNISON don't mark exams.

Q: If we get a yes vote, and the union takes strike action and decides to take further action in the future, will we need to ballot again?
A: No, we will not have to ballot again - if we take action based on the results of the ballot within 28 days of the result, we can take further action again as long as the original dispute is running. We may well consult members, however, on any improved offer if we get one from the employer.

Q: Do you really think we should vote for strike action, when members are so worried about their jobs, privatisation or other threats?
A: We can only win an improved pay rise - and show that we mean business in resisting other attacks - if we take robust action on pay now. We will be seen to be weak if we accept pay cuts year on year, and the employers will simply come back for more - be it job cuts, privatisation or other attacks on our terms and conditions.

Q: Can't we have a demo on a Saturday which will get media attention and we won't lose pay - then more people will join in the action?
A: The employer will not suffer any disruption if we march in central London on one of our precious days off, but they will have a problem on their hands if we don't turn up for work when they need their phones answering, their libraries opened and their computers working...

Q: If the vote is yes and we name a day of strike action, can we still talk to the employers? 
A: Yes we would hope to get a better offer from employers in order to avert the threat of strike action but we cannot be sure they would do so until they see how well the strike action is supported ... it will depend on the strength of the yes vote.

Q: What about in the 'poorer' Universities - do you really think the e,employers will pay up? 
A: Fact: there is £1billion in reserves in the HE sector.The truth is they are awash with cash. Even the 'poor Universities' pay their senior staff enormous salaries and have reserves.

Q: I couldn't make the meetings this week - how can I help?
A: Here are just a few suggestions:

  • Put up posters in your workplace - you can print them off yourself or order some from UNISON
  • Give out leaflets in your workplace
  • Talk to your local members and colleagues - set up shop floor meetings
  • Organise a 'bring your ballot into work day' with your workmates
  • Organise other imaginative stunts and spread the word - tell other activists what you've done and what worked well
  • Leaflet at lunch times, and as people are coming in to work, or try after work at the end of the day - when people are going home (which is where their ballot papers will be after all);
  • Give non-members membership forms and ask them to join, it affects their pay too - use the pay campaign as a recruitment and organising tool;
  • Prioritise winning the ballot - a high turn out will make all the difference. As activists we all have a dozen things to try to do each day and something always falls off the list because you don't have enough hours in the day, so make sure talking to people about the pay ballot is a standing item high on your 'to do' list ...
  • Share the film and (if you like it) this blog-post on  Facebook, Twitter, and email it to your friends at work with a personalised note to say why you're voting 'yes'.
  • And if you're on Facebook or twitter, why not make this your 'Profile picture' during the ballot:
Q: Can student activists help?
A: Yes: some activists in ULU are going to organise a 'support our staff' website, for example; students should contact their local UNISON, UCU or Unite branches to ask when and where they're leafleting and if they can help out. There is also going to be a model student union motion to circulate too, so watch this space...

Q: Is it true the film cost London Met branch quite a few quid? How can I donate?
A: I'm glad you asked! In fact it cost £1,000 to put together, so do please send cheques payable to 'UNISON London Metropolitan University' to the following address (if we get more than enough we will send the cheque back, so email for more info):

Chris Manna, UNISON Treasurer
London Metropolitan University
166-220 Holloway Rd, London, N7 8DB

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